Driving Impressions

By July 16, 2007

To drive the Gallardo Superleggera is to drive one of the most exciting, powerful and capable sports cars in the world today. Lamborghini quotes a 0-100 kilometer (0-62 mph) time of only 3.8 seconds, and a top speed just under 200 miles per hour.

The six-speed manual transmission is a very good transmission hobbled by a Sixties-style shifting gate built into the floor console, an anachronism that makes it difficult to shift cleanly and smoothly. Although we spent some time with the clunky-shifting 6-speed manual version, we spent most of our test drive time on the roads around Scottsdale, Arizona, and at Phoenix International Raceway with the much more attractive egear version.

The egear transmission is a combination of manual and automatic that is shifted up and down by paddles attached to the steering column (and not to the steering wheel itself, which can be awkward in some driving situations). To get Neutral, you pull back on both paddles at once. To drive in automatic mode, push the console-mounted button with a large A on it. To engage Reverse, touch the R button on the dashboard. Although the egear transmission can be clunky, too, especially as it downshifts into first before coming to a stop, it is a joy to use in performance driving situations, shifting in lightning-fast fashion under full throttle and blipping the throttle on downshifts to match engine rpm to road speed. This transmission, coupled to a 522-hp engine that doesn't run out of revs until 8000 rpm, makes for an exciting driving experience.

The thoroughly sorted-out racing-style suspension system on the five-year-old Gallardo works in concert with a front/rear weight distribution of 42/58 percent, the huge, sticky Pirelli P Zero Corse tires, the car's low center of gravity, and its viscous-coupling all-wheel-drive system to deliver acceleration, cornering and braking that few other cars on this planet can match. The viscous coupling can send up to 100 percent of the engine's torque to either the front or rear tires, but normally operates at 42 percent front-drive and 58 percent rear-drive for maximum performance on dry pavement.

At the same time, the steering is ultra-direct and quick, and the ride is reasonably plush and quiet, but it does crash pretty hard on rough pavement and potholes.

The stationary wing optional for the Superleggera is said to add more than 370 pounds of aerodynamic downforce to the rear of the car at high speeds.

Braking performance, even without the $10,000 optional carbon ceramic brakes, is exceptional, with a 60-0 braking distance of only about 109 feet, and a powerful feel that will pull you right up against your seatbelts in a panic stop situation.

Overall, the Superleggera instills a huge degree of confidence in a good, experienced driver.